Have you ever been horrified to discover an obvious typo on your resume, proposal or blog?
Perhaps you’ve sent written messages from your smartphone that made you look dumb because your fat fingers pressed the wrong keys and formed a bizarre string of letters. In turn, those letters took on a whole new meaning that you didn’t intend to send. Or the smartphone made changes that you didn’t notice until just after you hit the send key. Argh!
Maybe you checked it over multiple times and never caught that mistake. Now, it’s out there in the public and you look sloppy and less professional. Why were you in such a hurry to get your work out there? How did that typo escape your eyes and the eyes of others reviewing the work?
A near miss
Just last week, my proofreader (who happens to be a team: my father, a retired engineer, backed up my mother, a retired clinical laboratory scientist), saved me from an embarrassing spelling error in the first paragraph of my blog. I was telling a story of why it’s important to be persistent in networking.
Because I’m an auditory-dominant learner and communicator, I often spell things phonetically and say them how I hear them. I frequently pronounce words wrong. I’ve done this for years. My writing style is similar to my speaking style: conversational and full of sound effects. This hasn’t stopped me from being a successful author and professional speaker.
In my last networking tip I wanted to use a surprising sound effect to bring some fun factor into my opening paragraph. I didn’t know how to spell the sound, so I did a cursory search on Google. I came away satisfied that the correct spelling was wah-lah.
Upon reviewing my blog, my proofreading team sent me a funny link from the Urban Dictionary. Here’s what it said:
Dumbasses who aren’t aware that the term voila is of French origin and activate the kindergarten sound-it-out method will use this term.
The sound effect I was looking for was a French word, voilà, pronouced vwä-ˈlä.
I had no clue and had to laugh thinking of how many times in my life I had pronounced it as “wah lah.” To all my French readers and French-literate friends, please forgive my ignorance.
Slow down, you move too fast
In my rush to publish my networking tip, I came dangerously close to being classified as a dumb ass. How could this happen? Was it because I never took French in school? Was it because I was too lazy and took shortcuts in my research? Or was it because I was too close to my own work and needed a second set of eyes to review the work before deploying?
I think it was all the above, plus the fact that I was working too fast and too last minute.
The dangers of instant gratification
We live in a world where technology allows us to be continuously connected to each other. Communicating in written form can now be zapped over the Internet at lightning speed. There’s no need to print or mail a letter anymore. Now, you can simply email that proposal or text that response.
There’s no time for reflection, for pondering, for double checking or re-writing. We are driven to produce, produce, produce. The more the better. The faster the better. Even if it’s riddled with errors and doesn’t present our best selves. Tick it off the list and let’s move on to the next thing.
Nothing short of NOW will do.
How can you protect yourself from careless mistakes in written communication?
- Mistakes on your resume: Hire a resume expert to review and polish your resume. They can be helpful in positioning you and your experience in the best possible light with the right keywords. They are also skilled and trained with proper grammar and layout best practices to keep the reader engaged in your resume. Don’t rely on your peers or networking buddies to proofread your resume. That’s not their expertise and it’s not their job.
- Mistakes on proposals and business letters: It is essential that you correctly spell the name of the recipient and their company name on any formal correspondence. That’s one of the reasons why I collect business cards when I meet with prospects and clients. Always have a neutral party review your proposal prior to sending it out. Have them double-check your math and your spelling. Allow time for this third party review, at least 24 hours. If the review comes back with no changes or mistakes caught, I would seriously have another person take a look at it. Consider hiring a professional writer, editor or proofreader to help you with important documents. It’s money well spent. Their expertise will make you look and read great!
- I have worked professionally with copywriter and author, Chris Amorosino, proofreader and editor, Nancy Simonds and award winning writer, editor and social media geek, Anne Witkavitch. Check out their web sites.
- Sidenote: Texting is often confusing since truncated language and abbreviations made up by the texting author are often interposed with keyboard errors. And there is often little concern for proper spelling, since that can take many time consuming keystrokes. Just abbreviate and get on with it is bad form.
Your Networking Tip for the Week
Exercise mindfulness in your written communication this week. Slow down and be more thoughtful in what you write and what you send out online or offline. Build in some “wait time” before you hit that SEND button. Communication is not a race; it’s an art form. Remember to let the paint dry before you ship your Picasso. Take more time; it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
If you need help with your written communication, check out online courses or adult education classes in your community. It doesn’t matter if you are a business professional, a writer, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, a school teacher, a college student: you will need to have strong written communication skills to be successful in your career.
Bonus: Take a proofreader to lunch this week. If you don’t have a proofreader in your professional network, then seek one out. Figure out what makes them tick and call upon them when you need the help. Don’t be so cheap that you skimp on the review process. Consider it insurance for your professional reputation.
p.s. my proofreading team found more than 20 things to correct in my original draft. Thank goodness for proof-readers. Oh, I mean proofreaders.